Brisket District

District North Cafe
678 Mt Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds

(Visited September ’16)

Spring and sunshine. That was the mix and the fresh smell in the air as baby girl and I headed to Moonee Ponds on a Saturday at the onset of September.

A few weeks earlier we had organised for a little catch up – some of the ‘gang’ with our kiddies. As it was, one of the Mums left hers at home (lucky thing) while myself and another friend had our scallywags accompany us.

District North is an expansive, neutral-coloured, clean space. Seating is aplenty, but still, being in a busy eating precinct on a sunny Saturday morning, you can never be too sure. We had booked ahead, and got a booth location up against the wall.

Once the kids were both seated, they fortunately received this:

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Thank God for colouring pencils. Well, it kept them busy for all of 46 seconds.

Anyway, we very quickly ordered, rushing the kids’ meals. It was a busy place, and definitely one that your child’s voice would get lost in the crowd – this is good. However kids being kids, we just didn’t want to test them, 11:30am and all.

Baby girl got the kids serving of pancakes with ice cream

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While I got the Bloody Brisket Benedict – Dr Marty’s crumpets, slow-cooked beef brisket, poached eggs, bloody mary hollandaise

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Now to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really understand what I was ordering. I kind of did, but somehow in amongst keeping baby girl in line and handing over pencil after pencil, and trying to keep her hands from taking the trucks out of her opponent’s (my friend’s son’s) hand, I kind of missed the ‘slow-cooked beef brisket’ part of the description, and thought Brisket was just, well, sauce or something.

Shame shame shame.

Anyway, I now know what brisket is. And it was delicious. When I received it I was initially a bit “okaayyy.” I’m not huge on meaty dishes, only because of how fussy I am when I eat it. I don’t trust many to give me clean pieces of meat that have no icky bits in them. Even Hubbie was surprised to later hear that I’d had ‘brisket.’

“No, but it was good!”

And it was. The meat was super soft, there was a lot of it, but because of its shredded properties it all kind of melted in the mouth. I didn’t even find it all that overpowering, and it helped me to make the decision months later, to choose the brekkie brisket meal over at The Winey Cow in Mornington (post coming soon).

The eggs were fantastically poached, the bread was good, having gotten nice and soft under all that brisket and egg, and the hollandaise had definite kick… I would never have normally ordered a meat brekkie dish, but I was so glad I hadn’t read it properly, otherwise I never would have tried. Delish!

My friend, who had already been there with her son, had only gotten him one pancake on his own plate – and now I could see why. The pancakes were huge, and though baby girl had a very good crack at them, she didn’t finish them all. They were of a very good portion.

Now pumped up with much-needed fuel, we immediately ordered coffees:

Babycino and cappuccino for baby girl and I

My cap was very smooth, something I half-expected having already experienced this well-run operation of eatery. And baby girl, well… when doesn’t she like her babycinos?

After a couple of toilet breaks, a short sitting outside on the small patio, and the kids finding the bucket of chalk to draw on the blackboard wall opposite the bathrooms, we went to pay, ogling the desserts up at the counter, but promising ourselves we would be back for those… another time.

Food: 9/10. Tasty, generous, and inventive. Why, bloody Mary hollandaise? Why not?!

Coffee: 8/10. Smooth and pleasing.

Ambience: Busy and bustling, not necessarily loud, but there were many people about on that Saturday morning.

People: There were lots of friends and couples meeting for brunch, but then there was a decent dose of family types about as well, like the couple who came to sit beside us with their under 10s son and daughter, making me all jelly as their kids were just sitting there… reading the menu… like they didn’t have to do anything to entertain their kids. What?!

Staff: Friendly, but busy too so we didn’t really get a chance to get personal.

Price: I shouted one friend for a past favour, and the other gave me cash so I could pay with my card, so the individual total I was unclear on… but I believe it was about $80ish, for 3 brunch meals, 2 kids meals, and a few coffees? On par for that area.

Advice: Definitely book ahead if going in ‘prime’ time. Head over earlier too, just because you will need a bit of time to find parking on or off the busy Mt Alexander Road. If you have toddlers in tow, be mindful, the meals are generous. And don’t shy away from the Brisket!

In a nutshell: The food and coffee were fantastic. The venue itself, with its hipster pulled-back palette, is nothing inventive or inspiring to me, so in that regard it was lacking some character. I would definitely go back for the menu, but I’ve seen that kind of café and accompanying atmosphere around many times before. Nonetheless, if you are local to this area, you should check it out, that I recommend.

I would go there more often myself, if it were in my beach-side District…

District North Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Surprise upsize

So… what do you do when the coffee lady calls out your coffee order, and you come to the counter to find a large cap, instead of your usual medium cap?

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And she is smiling?

“Have a nice day!”

???

You say: “Have a nice day!’

Grab the coffee in a calm and steady fashion, and then head out the door as fast as you can.

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You can upsize my coffee any day lady. Even more so when I am at work. I definitely need it.

Happy Saturday 🙂

Umpteen reasons why you should LOVE Winter

It hit me one Saturday morning during a work shift, as I left the warm confines of my place of employment to walk down the road and grab a coffee. Feeling that fresh air, that Winter chill on my face, reminded me of the time I felt it last year, and suddenly I was down memory lane, remembering the things about Winter you choose so hard to forget when it is done and dusted for the year.

So, then, I tried harder to remember. What fascinates me about this time of year, is that once it is upon us, it’s actually not that bad. It’s the anticipation of it – that is the shits, and one of the major factors of making the entire season that much more unbearable.

Hey, calm down… I’m not like, a ‘Winter ambassador’ or something! I am the first to put up my hand and forge ahead with the get-rid-of-Winter fan club. I wouldn’t say I HATE it, since that is a strong word, that I HATE to use (see what I did there?) but I do in fact, detest the coldest of seasons to a degree that once the longest day has come and gone in January, I am in slow grief over the gradual dissemination of Summer.

But like I said above: it ain’t too bad. I’ve been most surprised by my own attitude towards it, in finding that there are actually plenty of great things to enjoy, and celebrate, about the coldest time of the year! You don’t say! Let me hear it! Well ok then, here is my list of things to get your blood boiling…

(And don’t fret, this isn’t one of those bullshit ‘buy a really good coat and scarves’ nonsense post. We all know that we need more than layers to make up for the fact of Winter, duh).

1. But First, Coffee.

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And so one of my fave coffee quotes signals the beginning of this Winter Warm-up list. When else to drink, and enjoy coffee most, than in Winter? Not only does the caffeine hit give you a burst of much needed non-hibernating energy, but it is WARM, and therefore, heats you up from the inside-out. This is a super simple and accessible way to keep you happy, buzzing and hot, ALL DAY LONG. Make it at home, or buy it out and about… really, this one is a no-brainer.

 

2. To café, OR, to café…

And, how to get to your hot coffee? Why, you enter a café of course. Just picture it: you are in the freezing winds, walking briskly to your café of choice so as to remove yourself from the unnerving elements, when you finally, step inside, and –

Ahhh. That moment.

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You know that moment, when the feeling of cold is replaced by the scent of coffee beans, and you are away from the outdoors, but can still see everything including all the fools still stuck out in the real world? And you’re ‘in here?’ and about to get a coffee? Yeah that’s great. Café-ing it, not just for coffee, but for anything in Winter – be it brekkie, lunch or any other fare – is a beautiful way to while away the day. Choose a good one, a cosy spot, and watch the world go by… just see if you don’t feel better about Winter when you put yourself in this supreme predicament…

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3. Walk This Way…

On a contradictory note, on those cold and still Wintery days, sometimes it can be somewhat, what is the word, rejuvenating! to take a nice long walk.

Yes, the air can be biting. Yes, the cold will still seep through your clothes. But there’s something about a fresh, freezing-cold walk that awakens the senses, both physical and mental, as it is often when I am walking in the cold that my creative mind is switched on. I don’t know why, but a brisk walk in Winter allows me to daydream and plan for any future blog posts (how this one came about) much more efficiently than in Summer. Maybe it’s the fact that other than getting into a heated area immediately, there is no other thought trying to take up head space like it does in Summer, where I would be planning future events and social gatherings, and the things I’ll be doing for the next 3 weekends. In Winter, it’s just Winter, and my creative thoughts are allowed to fly beside the recurring thought of ‘get inside.’

I don’t like to be in the cold, and yet a walk like this brings about a whimsical dreamlike effect to my walk, where I find myself observing, being in the moment, and smiling often. I’m not wishing myself out of this hellhole, I’m just smiling. I’m not trying to prove a point… Next.

4. Stay IN

Although I absolutely love Summer, there is one thing that gets tiring by the end of the season: the constant go-go-go. Summer makes you feel like you have to be super-efficient and on top of the world, heading to every social event, enjoying every ounce of sunshine, waking at the crack of dawn, and starting a new body-building course when you’re not preparing your new gluten-free, dairy-free, animal-free, everything of any joy or texture or enjoyment-free diet. It is FULL on.

But Winter allows you to just chill. Hibernate like a bear, and in doing so, drink all the hot chocolate/tea/coffee before doing so. If there is any season where you should feel the least guilt about doing nothing, and where you should completely and utterly embrace the act of doing absolutely nothing, it is Winter. It’s okay, you will be at it again in a couple of months time…

5. Pimp up your home

But, if you absolutely HAVE to, you could always forgo sitting around and chilling on the couch, with doing something around the house. Just as our sanity and ‘me time’ gets neglected in Summer, so too does the house, and house ‘stuff.’ You know those odd jobs. The broken door handle. The 3rd light bulb that has been burnt out in the lounge room for 4 months. The pile of boxes that hasn’t been broken down into pieces. That heap of junk in your garage that you know a charity would love, but alas, Summer time.

In Winter, it is ALL possible. Case in point. We had bought new door handles from Bunnings to replace our old ones, as we wanted to spruce up the 80s-style house we had recently moved into. They remained untouched for months and months, ALL THROUGH SUMMER, and it was only when the cold hit, that Hubbie finally started replacing them.

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Winter is the best time to look outward-in. Look around you and see what needs a little TLC, and then proceed accordingly. Home improvements, up-dos, renos – whatever it is, you will feel soooo much better for it, and not at all like a lazy bear once you are done.

6. Go OCD, mofos

And for those of you like me, that love to sort and clean and organise… well, what are you waiting for? Use these cold months to file away. File to your freaking hearts content. Label and shelve and box. Store those photos in chronological order, organise your home family videos, and clean up your menu folder so that you don’t have crappy old recipes in there that you won’t even sniff at again. There is no better feeling then tackling a long, put-off job, and I swear, as Winter ends and Spring begins, the sense of accomplishment you feel in knowing everything is sorted and ready for another season/year… GOLD. GO you OCD peeps, GO!

7. Jump!

Ok, so this is kinda parent-specific. But, you don’t need to be a recently-acquired trampoline owner for a cheeky monkey princess like I have, to jump. You probably do need a child of some kind, so if you don’t have any of your own, borrow one – like you probably have a niece, or nephew, or know someone who would LOVE for you to kindly offer their brood a day out? (You will be on their Christmas card list FOREVER, I promise you).

But my point is, be childlike. Jumping is not only fun, good for you, and is healthy (hey, exercise), but it warms you up too! And if you think jumping is only for kids – 20 seconds on the thing and you will remember what a jumping extraordinaire you used to be 20 or so years ago… and then it will be the kid trying to get you off the trampoline, not you, them.

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8. A good book

So, a no-brainer. Totally. But when else is it more acceptable and necessary to snuggle up with a book and lose yourself within its pages? Never, ever, EVER. Even on holiday, you should be doing things and seeing things, but at home, in Winter? Perfect reading weather.

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Whether it’s at home, on your lunch break, or on the train, waiting for your doctors appointment (that brisk walk/jumping probably gave you a little cough, ahem*) or at the park while the kiddies play, there is really no better time to invest in a good book.

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9. SLEEP

So a totally acceptable place to read is in bed, but if you’d rather not even do that, you can just sleep. I know this is such a ‘Duh, Fred’ point, but still, it HAS TO be said. Fred.

Sleep ’til your big hearts content. Of course this is totally dependant on whether you have a paying job or go to regular schooling (most of the Western population), but in your down time, this is a perfectly acceptable hobby. Yep. Even if you have kids that don’t let you breathe, just pull them in, throw a blanket over your heads, and once the hilarities have died down, watch them fall into a slumber. You will be there too soon, don’t worry.

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Sleep on the bed, sleep on the couch… wherever you wish. Just make sure it’s comfy and inviting, there are plenty of blankets, and a real nice place to rest your head. Ahhhh.

10. Shop ’til you Drop

Let’s change tack and ramp it up a little, to my favourite past-time! Like seriously, how annoying is it in Summer, when you need some new clothes/shoes/pillows/coffee beans, and you head into the confines of a multi-level shopping centre, but it’s a stunning, and I mean STUNNING day out? You don’t want to miss out on that, and stay indoors most of the day? This is so especially true for us Melburnians, as sunshine, even in Summer of all seasons, can be soooo fleeting.

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But in Winter? Hell, bring the shopping on! You won’t miss out on ANYTHING because its so cold and miserable out! YAY. Shop to your hearts content, in fact, shop for all seasons, and stay ahead of the pack.

11. Work it out 

Ok, so I know some of you might wanna swipe me over this one, as I am known for finding gratitude in the most wide-ranging of places… but I tell you, work really IS better when it’s cold. I mean, just look at the below:

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How miserable is the above photo? Okay well it is oddly pretty in the dim light, but you know what I mean… I am not really missing out. It’s taken from my work window… do I wanna go outside? Hell no!

Work is actually not too bad, and you can almost be grateful to be in the confines of work, when it is so shit-faced outside. You will never be sad being at work during Winter, unless of course you had to get up at 5am like me, and are staring out the kitchen window at 7am thinking of Hubbie and baby girl asleep and warm in bed… damn.

TRY to be grateful for work while you can, in Winter, at the very least.

12. Let’s go to the beach

Your welcome. Ok so maybe not Summer-thumping-beach-vibes weather at the mo, but you know where I’m headed.

This may be a bit left-of-centre for some, but for me being fortunate enough to live BY the beach, not so. But either way, a trip to the beach is for most in our fair country, accessible and do-able.

Why should you do it, you cry? Cold, winds, uninviting waters…

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What do you think? I’m not telling you to jump in. No, hell no. I’m just saying that the ocean views bring about a sense of calmness, of peace, of reflection, and retrospection, and the waters don’t even have to be still and unrippled. No. They are in fact most beautiful and spectacular when they are savage, wild and unleashed, ripping against the shore or pier or rocks, and showing you the brutal nature of Mother Earth herself.

Rug up and try it. See how your mind feels afterwards.

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13. Do something NEW

While you’re out and about at the beach, how’s about you keep trying new things, and enrol in a course of some kind. (Like not literally walk down the road, just think about it). Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Like maybe, learn a new language? Try your hand at some knitting? Learn how to cook like a chef? Drive a manual car? For some creative pursuits, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home – just log in and you’re connected.

Doing something you’ve been wanting to do for a while is not just fulfilling, as you are catering to yours truly, yourself, but you are putting yourself out there in a vulnerable position. Only when you are vulnerable, can you really learn anything. Since everything is on the down-low in Winter, there is no time like the present to focus in on yourself, and give something new a go. Time to study, reflect on where you want to go in life, and centre yourself both spiritually and mentally, is the perfect cold-time creative pursuit. Just try. You won’t lose a thing.

14. Cook up a storm! 

While doing something new, you may want to try your hand at some new recipes.. or old, whatever tickles your fancy. But what I love about this coldest of seasons, is the deliciously warm dishes to match. Or should I say, warm you right up. Whether it be a vegetable curry

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a cauliflower soup

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or some yummy baked goods

there is nothing quite so inviting on a cold Winter’s night, than to indulge in warming, delicious and comforting, Winter-specific foods. Slow-cooked meals, lasagnes, roasts… the list goes on and on and on. And the upside? When you are buying Winter-y things like cauliflower for your soup, you are buying in season, so it is cheaper! Winning 🙂 Go foodie mad.

15. Catch up with some old ‘friends’

Now, I don’t mean ACTUAL friends, and boy would it be appropriate here if I actually  loved the show of the same name. Instead I’m talking of your movies and your DVD box sets. Plop yourself in a comfy place, and get ‘re-acquainted.’ I feel forever-guilty whenever I sit on the couch – I always feel like I should be doing something more worthy, more important, and being a Mum makes the feelings more so. This is an activity I rarely indulge in.

But this Winter, I am really going to take it on board… and what better way to feel better about the blowing winds outside, than to be laughing/crying/hysterically shaking, over the antics of some old faves.

You don’t even have to have the DVDs. Shows like Sex and the City are on repeat on TV, there are streaming devices, and have you heard of Netflix? People even ‘download’… I’m not condoning it, I’m just saying, ok?

It’s never been easier to catch up with, or watch a brand new series to get stuck into. Need tips? Some of my old faves:

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The above mentioned, my fave gal pals. “Abso-fucking-lutely” amazing.

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Angel. An amazing series that is 5 seasons long, and is totally worth investing your life into. Get ready to have your soul literally ripped apart, thanks Joss Whedon (no really, thank you!)

Dawson’s Creek is actually on free-to-air Go! at the moment. My face when I realised this? Bliss 🙂  I know it’s a teenage show, but it’s one of my ol’ faithfuls, and besides, the actors were probably my age when they filmed it, so….

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my current must-watch on TV, Shark Tank. This is splendid in every way. Seeing the investors rip through and tear to shreds some of the up-and-coming entrepreneurs and inventors, is just brilliant. You must watch this show.

So grab a warm drink, snuggle up on the couch (child or partner is optional) and chill-ax….

16. Bust a move.

Exercise. I know I know, it’s not bikini time, and it’s probably the only time of the year when there is no pressure to be beach-ready… but it doesn’t mean you can’t devote time to yourself to be healthy.

Still not sold? You don’t even have to leave the house. There are a world of gyms, gym classes, personal trainers, and get-fit programmes out there, and there as just as many exercise DVDs! Find what tickles your fancy, and do it in the privacy of your own home.

Do as I do, and pop on some trakkies, put on that old Zumba DVD, and get dancing! Exercise gets you going and warms you up at a time when it is so easy to be sluggish and sloth-like. And you know what I was so surprised to find? Even one session a week (baby steps) has given me increased flexibility and energy to run after a certain 3 year-old rascal. True story.

17. A ‘warming’ drink

I couldn’t bulk ‘warm drinks’ with ‘coffee,’ as coffee is just too damn important to me to be watered down like that… but I conclude with the option, that if you don’t like coffee, maybe tea is more your fancy?

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Or maybe a spicy chai latte can rub you totally up the right way

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No? Vino? There’s nothing like a good glass of red to get the fires burning

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Wanna get more creative? I give you, a combination of the last two options, Gluhwein…

https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/german-mulled-wine-gluhwein-30925

Which is German Mulled Wine. It’s a whole lot of fabulous spices and wine/alcohol, warmed up, and you will create some GREAT memories in the making and drinking of it, let me assure you.

If you can’t be happy with a glass of wine/mug of tea/brew of gluhwein, while the winds are raging outside your window, well then YOU CAN’T BE SAVED!

 

So, how did I go? Have I given you renewed (or maybe just NEW) inspiration to totally LOVE Winter? We may be about half-way through the coldest of seasons, but living in Melbourne, we ALL KNOW it’s going to totally screw us up right up ’til November, if we’re lucky.

So guys. Pick a point and get to it. If you think I’ve left anything out, drop me a line!

(I say as I finish off a warm mug of tea…)

 

 

Snippets of Conversation #2

I don’t want to make this series all ‘Gossip Girl’ like, and yet with my only two so far, it feels like it is unintentionally headed that way…

Makes for some interesting questions though.

Yesterday while heading into a small shopping centre after work, on a late Saturday afternoon, I was approaching 3 guys – definitely guys, not men. No more than 19, they would have fit right in at a skate park. For all I know, that’s where they were headed.

Pants falling down, hoodies over-sized, colours of grey and black all around. Caps turned back-to-front, and all 3, tall. Real street, yet with a touch of teenage still in them.

As I drew closer, the group parted, and the guy who was on his own, made a loud sneeze to the side as I walked through the circle. Another one was holding a beer slab under his arm, and then I heard a voice:

“… so that night she says to me, ‘what’s that lipstick on your top,’ and I say ‘that’s from my Nana,’ and then she stops…”

It was only once I’d passed them that the words filtered through my head via satellite, leaving me wondering, and hanging.

Why was there lipstick on his collar?

Was it really his Nana’s?

He sounded so convincing, with no hint of sarcasm or foolery…

but THERE WAS lipstick on his collar.

Hmmm. A good story-starter. You’re welcome 🙂

 

25 Sure Fire Signs you are a Coffee (Addict) Enthusiast

If you feel or have experienced any of these things, I’m sorry to tell you…

  1. You spend your night thinking of where you will get your daily caffeine hit
  2. You wake up looking forward to your coffee
  3. You plan your day around coffee
  4. You will go that extra mile, despite crappy, windy, rainy, unfavourable weather, to get your favourite coffee, even if there is average-tasting coffee in half the distance
  5. You think you are some kind of coffee connoisseur, and turn your nose up if the coffee is passed to you abruptly/the barista doesn’t smile at you/your coffee order comes back with too much/not often froth/you don’t get a rock star’s welcome when you enter through the café doors…
  6. When the coffee run is up, no one ever forgets to ask you if you want to come… they know better than that. 
  7. A day with no coffee, is just a sad, wasted day
  8. Any situation can be made better with the addition of coffee. It’s a perfectly acceptable, cheaper and WAY more helpful alternative to therapy.
  9. It’s not ” have you had coffee?” it’s “how many have you had today?”
  10. You experience caffeine headaches in the absence of it… and though a milder tea may make the ache go away, the presence of the headache is almost always due to your body’s dependence on ‘the bean.’
  11. You love your weekends even more, because it’s a greater excuse for more coffee
  12. A short black at 11pm on a Saturday night is not too late for a coffee
  13. A short black at 10pm on a weeknight, is not too late for a coffee
  14. Back when you never drank coffee, the occasional times you did it would keep you awake. Now, you can fall asleep harder than any husband can, and the caffeine in your system can not do a thing.
  15. When someone tells you they feel like crap, you respond with “have you had coffee?”
  16. Your children are babycino/hot chocolate snobs
  17. You have returned coffee for ‘not meeting standards.’
  18. You excitedly share favourite haunts with other fellow coffee addicts, and then take selfies with said coffee
  19. You review coffee in some kind of forum, and probably have a Zomato account
  20. You have a coffee machine at home, and devote maintenance to it more than any other home electrical device
  21. There is always 4 types of coffee in your home
  22. You take the first sip of your coffee, and then exhale audibly
  23. Coffee pics in various locations prevail in your phone’s gallery
  24. When people tell you they don’t drink coffee, you pat their arm in pity
  25. You have nodded yes to at least 20 of these!

…You, are definitely, a coffee addict.

That coffee has you wrapped around its tiny beans. You’re a goner.

Ooh, baby baby it’s a wild (pizza) world

DOC Pizza & Mozzarella Bar Delicatessen
22 Main Street Mornington

(Visited April ’16)

It was a cold Saturday night on the Peninsula, and we had escaped there yet again for the Anzac Day Long Weekend. After walking up and down the Main street in Mornington, we decided on DOC. We had been there on a rainy afternoon YEARS ago, pre-baby days, and thought we would have a go at it again.

Back then there was like, 3 other people in the store on that rainy afternoon. That night in April, there was about 300.

Or so it felt like. The communal tables inside the Pizza & Mozzarella bar were crammed, and every other table either inside or outside had people hanging off it too. I don’t know how, but we ended up somehow on a free table outside, and though I was initially scared of the cold, the heaters above our heads were so strong that I had to take off my jacket, and my mobile on the table was kept extremely warm all night. (Warning, due to low-lighting, crappy photos follow).

Soon after sitting down, another party, a family of 3, sat at the other end of our medium-sized table. We didn’t mind, but I just prayed they wouldn’t be put off by any of baby girl’s antics. Soon enough though, she would be plenty busy.

Our waiter arrived with menus, and immediately I could read the type. He was aloof, but not try-hard, with an obvious accent, and I knew it was only a matter of time…

As we ordered I asked about the wine, and by placing my trust in his expertise he suggested I get a red ‘something,’ while Hubbie got a Menabrea

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And then he opened up. He let baby girl keep the torn paper menu she had used up already, even bringing her over a cup of pencils without asking. She proceeded to draw on the torn menu at the table with us, as well as on the floor next to us.

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We eventually received our shared meal. We thought it would be enough, but alas, we were starving. When our waiter told us it would be sufficient to share, I should have told him we’re of European descent, as he was:

Our Pizza San Daniele – San Marzano tomato, D.O.P Buffalo mozzarella, D.O.P San Daniele Prosciutto

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And the Mista – mixed leaf salad with balsamic

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I don’t know why we chose just the San Daniele. It was great, don’t get me wrong. I think the simple ingredients made me think everyone, especially baby girl would enjoy it. Also, but in one of my all time fave movies Only You, doesn’t Marisa Tomei’s character end up going to a Daniele-type Italian village as she chases after her supposed soul mate Damon Bradley? It stuck in my head. And you just don’t know with some pizza places, you order a pizza and it can barely fit on the table.

Despite how light and thin the crust was, and how tasty the evenly proportioned ingredients were on the base, within a few slices we flagged our waiter and said “get us a cap too.”

Pizza Capricciosa Nuova arrived soon after. With San Marzano tomato, mozzarella, leg ham, mushroom, artichoke and olive

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I didn’t know ‘til I’d had a few bites of that one that there was a different taste I had been unaware of. Not unpleasant, just different. The artichoke! It was interesting and definitely not unwanted, certainly a capricciosa that I will remember for future. Nuova indeed. Again the base was thin and all the ingredients were so tasty and fresh, and easily between the 3 of us we smashed both pizzas.

Even the salad was really fresh and appealing, easily consumed and not needing to be forced down like other boring salads. The balsamic really brought it together.

We were having a really great time by this stage. Hubbie had proceeded onto a Peroni continuing in the Italian spirit, my red was still swimming in my head, its bouquet immediately apparent as I had taken the first sip. Baby girl was happy, our waiter was singing as he swum from one table to the next, telling us that this was nothing and that the restaurant would peak in Summer time. How could many more people fit in the joint? He also gave baby girl plenty of attention, even going to the lengths to pick up her pencils from the floor when they fell. We hadn’t moved to the Peninsula yet, and already this place was our locale.

It was certainly an experience when I went to look for a change room for baby girl. We had ordered desserts, and suddenly, nature called. I asked a nearby waiter if there was a change room, and he pointed me in the direction. I was looking in the disabled room, and checking all corners of the ladies loos, but still nope, no change table of any kind. I went back out, holding baby girl’s hand and lugging my massive Van Chi, and spotted our waiter in the main dining room. I asked him for his help, and he was sure they had one too. He personally came with me through all the toilets, checking to see if indeed there wasn’t any as I’d suggested. He barged into the ladies, us following, and after scanning the room pointed to the bench space near the basins up front.

“Just change her there.”

I cast a doubtful look. “But people come in here, and then wash their hands…” I felt bad. I knew where he was heading, but someone could really get pissed off if I spread my nappy changing crap out and proceeded to change a nappy where women washed their hands after using the loo. People LOVE hanging shit on Mums (pardon the pun).

He shrugged. “Who cares? She’s a baby,” with a wave of his hand as if to say ‘whatever.’

I thanked him. His no-care attitude and support gave me the courage I needed. I got her stuff ready on the bench, waiting until two women who had just come into the bathroom left so I could be at peace. Then in lightning time, I changed her. No one came in. Relieved and very thankful for the waiter’s help (and encouragement), I went back to Hubbie who had started on dessert. He just couldn’t wait.

He had the Nutella calzonoino with vanilla bean ice cream, while I had the sour cherry (I’m pretty sure it was) pannacotta

Mine definitely had the sour flavour, yet I still loved the lightness and creamy texture it possessed. Hubbie’s calzone was filling yet tasty, he adored it. Really he did. But there’s Nutella, so there you go.

And baby girl loved both very much.

Our meal there finished after two lots of people had both come and gone at the end of our table. We were very full. We left happily, with lots of thoughts of when and where we would be moving there.

Now usually my review would end there. My reviews are based on my first blogging experience  – since starting my Food Reviews – at a restaurant… but seeing as we coffee-d there two mornings after, and received distinctly different service from that Saturday night, I have to note it down.

The Main Street had been closed due to the Anzac Day parade, and we happened to arrive there right after it opened post 11am, after we had checked out of our Mount Martha accommodation.

Now I will forewarn this by saying that I believe the staff at DOC that day were understaffed and not expecting the quantity of people who came into their venue once the parade had finished. They were stressed, when crowds of people started lining up for a table.

Stressed is one thing; rude is another.

The man who served us that day was not the same as our lovely waiter from two nights earlier. Once we had been seated by another stressed waiter, this rude one came along.

Woe was us.

He also had an accent (a prerequisite for a job there I think) and took our coffee orders before I went off to check out the display case of cakes at the front. I came back to be told by a very angry Hubbie that while I was gone, baby girl yelled out in a frustrated fashion (as she sometimes does) and when Hubbie looked over apologetically at the waiter, he gave Hubbie a greasie.

He totally gave him a nasty look.

I had to flag the waiter down to take our dessert order, since he wasn’t making any eye contact. He made it out to be a total disservice to have to serve us: he repeated my order of “custard doughnut and salted caramel tart” like I had a learning disability and he thought me incompetent to communicate. After that travesty he angrily walked off and I later heard him condescendingly speaking to a large group of non-Italian people behind us, who were having trouble understanding what “calzone” was. He got lucky with them, as they all laughed at each other and didn’t catch the arrogance in his tone. There was no “restraint exercised” with him (refer to the menu for an explanation). I would not be surprised, in fact I would be expecting that he did not get so lucky with other customers that day.

We got our coffee and our desserts.

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The coffee was smooth, and the desserts were ok. They were delivered by our waiter from the other night but he was so busy he just plonked them down and didn’t realise who we were. Baby girl was going off rude waiter’s vibes and being especially cranky. We were so happy to hear a baby inside the restaurant also crying, I can’t tell you. We left immediately.

Food: 7.5/10. Fresh and simple, done well. Authentic and satisfying. I need to try their cheeses. I mean, it’s in their title ‘mozzarella bar.’ It’s got me drooling at the thought, and will have their food score sky-rocketing I think.

Coffee: 7/10. I’ll be honest, the service kinda spoiled any correct assessment I can make on it. I was too busy being pissed off.

Ambience: It was a really bustling and happy atmosphere the Saturday night that we dined there. They turned all the lights off inside at one stage to sing a type of Happy Birthday song to somebody, and just the way everyone went crazy was awesome. I loved the vibe. It was more chilled outside, whereas inside it was LOUD.

People: All kinds, families, couples, friends, everyone. This is the place to be, that was so apparent. You can take anyone you want, and everyone will fit in. There was a line out the door just to be put on a waiting list, and there are genuinely people spilling out the door and in the venue, either already sitting or waiting for one to pop up.

Staff: As above, as I’ve noted in detail. We had an experience of extreme proportions. We had a great waiter, then a shit one. But I’d like to think they’re all good like the first one, and the shit one has had his bags packed off for him by now.

Price: We paid $106 on our Saturday night. Two pizzas, 3 alcoholic drinks, a salad, and two desserts. Pizzas are $$$. Don’t be shocked. We had a great time so for us it was worth it.

Advice: Consider booking ahead, since this place really gets full early on. As I said ‘it’s the place to be.’ Everyone wants to be at this venue sitting on the corner of Main Street and looking out at the passers by. If you by some chance get a dude who looks like he’s just bitten into a lemon, immediately flag another waiter. Trust me, you don’t want him. He’ll ruin your visit. If the DOC is the body governing the standards of various cheeses and wines, then the DO-whatever needs to send rude guy packing and whip his arse into shape. Just saying.

And if you like to eat, trust me, a pizza on your own is no difficult feat.

In a nutshell: We were really disappointed to have such a negative experience on our immediate second visit there, offered by a staff member who frankly had no business at that business: he’s killing it for them. But not wanting a negative to offset such a positive, we are adamant that we will go back to DOC. for the friendly singing-Italian, the beautiful and fresh food, and the bustling atmosphere, rather than the guy who will most likely be gone by the time we revisit.

I always try to focus on the positives, and unless a venue offers me consistently bad experiences, I will usually go back if there has been a problem that could on the next visit be easily fixed/avoided.

So D-O-C, crack the whip on cranky waiter’s B-U-M, so I can hurry on back and get me some C-H-E-E-S-E.

D.O.C Mornington Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

No. 8 is No. 1

No. 8 by John Lawson
8 Whiteman Street Southbank

We had left home on time to dine at No.8 pre-Valentine’s Day that Saturday night. Feb 14 falling on a Sunday that year, we decided to do a V-Day dinner the night before, because Saturday night – why of course.

The only problem was, there was traffic. Being all outskirts-of-the-city savvy, I thought we could sneak off the freeway through Docklands and towards Crown, but there was an event that night, making the traffic through the docked suburb a nightmare. It held us right back, and even as we tried to make our way in as quick as we could, taking multiple detours due to the event, every time we tried to get closer to Crown – you couldn’t turn left into there, while here, you couldn’t do a hook turn. I wanted to scream in frustration. I very nearly came to screaming point when I received a phone call 15 minutes after we were scheduled to arrive, from the restaurant’s staff, asking where we were. I politely, through gritted teeth said we were stuck in traffic. We were close. I had booked days earlier, and we had been booked into the 6:15-8:15 session, yet I did not realise how strict they were with their ‘sessions.’ The lady informed me it was fine, but we would still be booked in ‘til only 8:15, despite arriving later.

Basically, she was telling me they would kick us out prior our 2 hour pre-booked stay.

We were seriously pissed driving over for the next 5 minutes.

But, we were dressed nicely, it was Saturday night, and it was a comfortably warm night too. We pushed it to the back of our minds and went forward.

We were half an hour late when we walked in. Considering we had just received a phone call, the door girl took a while to find our booking. When we were finally brought to our table, I was a bit disappointed.

It had nothing to do with the surrounds. They were elegant though arty, not offensive to the eye at all. But when I had booked I had been told we would have outdoor seating overlooking the Yarra, and also, a high chair. We were inside, with no high chair.

Sigh. Another speed bump. We flagged a waitress and queried the lack of outdoors and child-seating. She said she would find out.

The ‘talker’ arrived. She explained that because there were bookings from weeks ago, versus my booking of a few days ago, the older bookings were given priority. And, a high chair was on its way. Apparently shared between restaurants. Okay then.

Clunky oversized child seat arrived. Yay.

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After settling in, I was happy to observe that even though we were inside, in a poshy restaurant, it was fairly loud. And soon after that, we received menus, and were introduced to our waiter for the night, who I shall refer to as ‘Louie.’

Louie, because he reminded me of a younger, less dorky, tad cuter, Louie Theroux. We ordered drinks with Louie, and as I perused the drinks menu I noticed most of the glasses were between $15-20 a glass. I ordered a 2015 Yarra Valley Rose – ‘Crudo’ by Luke Lambert,  Hubbie had a Crown Lager, and we also received some complimentary bread with butter, that was exceptionally moorish, but only complimentary as far as the fact that everything else was jacked up in price to compensate.

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Soon after, we started receiving our meals.

First baby girl got her Fish and Chips

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Hubbie received his Porterhouse steak with baked onions

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I received the Chicken breast, with broccolini and mashed potato and jus

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While we all had a go at the side of asparagus

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Now before I continue, my meal descriptions would be far ‘fancier’ if I had found the original menu online. Not only is it seasonal, but sadly the restaurant is no more! I think it is Crown’s constant philosophy to keep updating their restaurants and keeping things fresh and new, no matter if they are popular… Anyway, just imagine the above with the addition of words like ‘jus,’ ‘garden dressing’ and ‘crumb crust.’ The photos show you anyway.

Although it looked quite simple, baby girl’s meal had her rubbing her tummy after most bites! That was a good sign. When offered chips and something else, it’s often hard to get her to eat the ‘something else,’ but in this case she did have quite a few pieces of the fish, picking up the chunks with her hands and feeding herself! What?! I didn’t have to beg her? And a lovely fish it was, delicately grilled pieces, which I was very happy about, since there is so much batter on offer for toddlers at restaurants, it becomes a bit boring. Not to mention unhealthy.

We were hoping she would have the asparagus, but it had a certain dressing that I can’t recall which left her opting out. We ate it instead with our meals, it was different, salty, but enjoyable.

Hubbie said his medium to well steak was grilled perfectly. In fact, his meal was amazing, perfect. Woah. Butcher approval? That’s a good sign. I also, LOVED my meal, in particular the crispy chicken with the jus… it was a tender, wholesome, comforting chicken, and until I ate that one I never realised I could be so damn pleased with chicken. The best word I can use to describe it would be ‘homely.’ I don’t know, it’s like the stuff that reminds you of home and your Mum’s cooking on a Winter’s night. Only this one was super-amazeballs.

Then there was the mash, and the crusty stuff on the mash – extra heartiness added there. We just couldn’t stop commenting about how good it was, and we only had positive things to say. There was one negative with the whole dinner experience, but it didn’t come anywhere from the food, the service or the restaurant itself… we actually could not eat together. Baby girl was extra fidgety, and did not want to stay in her high chair (it did look quite ugly) a moment longer beyond her meal being finished. So it meant that I walked with her and showed her the Chinese New Year display outside while Hubbie ate, then we did tag team and he went out with her while I ate solo. So, as far as Valentine’s Day was concerned, there was not much ‘connecting’ there.

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We had one of those moments: “What’s the point of going out?” But then Louie told me we were raising a fine girl, so I guess that counts for something right? Oh Louie.

That’s how it is peeps. It ain’t easy with a kid.

After I finished my main and Louie came to take our plates, he asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu. Personally, I really did, but I knew the time – it was after 8, meaning our time was almost up. I politely queried him, aware of the few empty tables around, fairly sure of the response.

He went away to check which I hadn’t expected, but upon return said there was no issue. Of course 🙂 It was interesting to note as we waited for the desserts, that the lamps on the wall came on at the same time, giving the room a romantic and atmospheric feel, and it was then I saw the time: 8:15. Coincidence? It was all very timely and appropriate, but that kind of attention to detail, I liked.

We managed to rope baby girl back in with promises of dessert after we ordered, and received this:

Dark chocolate ganache with berries and sorbet

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And a Panna cotta with fruit and celery granite

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Ha ha! I thankfully remembered the detail of the ‘celery granite,’ as that was my dessert. I loved it. It was cold and refreshing, light and creamy, and considering I’m not a celery fan, this granite did not taste at all like it, thankfully. It was frosty and cool, I really enjoyed the flavour. It was in cold contrast to Hubbie’s dessert – also good, but so intense with the chocolate. Hubbie was personally like “I’m paying how much for that?” He thought it was overpriced for the quantity of what he received, but I reminded him it was the presentation, attention to detail and the restaurant. That’s just how it was.

We asked for the bill soon after – and then it was definitely time to go!

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Food: 9/10. The quality was fantastic, yet if there was slightly more on the plate, especially in reference to the dark chocolate ganache, the score would have hit the top. Exceptional food and presentation.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Calm, though loud which I did not expect. It had us feeling more comfortable because we didn’t feel like we had to whisper like in a library. It was a fine dining restaurant, with simple, modern and classy surroundings, and that cool, relaxed vibe followed through.

People: Poshy. Don’t be mistaken. Generally the age ranged from mid-30s to up, but that suggests that there were many people in their 30s, which there weren’t, as there were older couples and groups abounding. There was one family who had a baby, but this baby was in a pram… there were no other toddlers I could see! There was a hen’s party near us, who provided some of the loud laughter, which I very much appreciated.

Staff: I realised as soon as the ‘talker’ had left at the beginning of our experience there, that it was their intention that no one leave unhappy. It was impossible. They would not allow it. And too right with the price being asked…

The staff were exceptionally professional. They were friendly too, with Louie talking to baby girl a bit and even another female waitress smiling at her each time she walked by.

I particularly loved Louie’s narration on our food as he brought it over, almost like he was trying to sell it to us once again… “and here is your beautiful chicken… your fine asparagus.”

LOL. Very poshy here.

Price: A very healthy $192. 3 mains, a side dish, 2 desserts, and 3 alcoholic drinks. Not bad for a less than 2 hour stay. I have to add again though, that the food was amazing, as was the service… but still $192 is expensive. You don’t leave the restaurant feeling you may pop out of your clothes the way you think you might for that price, but again, it’s the type of restaurant.

Advice: Firstly, book. It’s a rule at Crown, stated on their website. If you’re really fussy and want outdoor seating, perhaps book over a week in advance so that you can almost guarantee an outdoor seat, overlooking the Yarra, and watching the passers-by, pass by.

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In a nutshell: This is a beautiful restaurant that I would like to go back to, however it’s not something that, at this stage of our lives, I can see happening easily. When you’re forking out that kind of money, you want to be able to enjoy the experience sitting across from your partner, Valentine’s Day Eve and all. So perhaps, unless you have a kid that sits there and does nothing (so really that applies to no parents), I’d suggest making your way over when you have left them with the grandparents. It’s just easier, as you do want to experience the surroundings and food and service in all of its finest…

And even with that being said, we still wouldn’t frequent the restaurant often, just because of the $$$ price tags. Like the chocolate ganache that is served sparingly, so should you too enjoy this restaurant in the same way (unless of course you are majorly cashed up, and in that case would you mind joining us on our food adventures? :))

So, I will come back… soon… one day… maybe when baby girl is 8. Yeah that sounds about right.

Afterword

As already mentioned, this restaurant has sadly permanently closed! Unlike the last food review I posted on the horribly appropriate failed Lygon street restaurant we had the displeasure to visit, I strongly believe this restaurant would have only seen its demise due to Crown’s ever-changing restaurant image.

If you see the name John Lawson anywhere, EVER, do not fear. Great food, is here.

Also, this should serve me right for waiting 11 months to post my review. (Waiting suggests I’ve been staring at my laptop thinking of what to write for that entire time.

Huh. If only life were that boring. NEVER).

 

Café Bugia

Café Trevi
294 Lygon Street Carlton

We were tired and hot after a long day at a birthday up in the North. We were fairly undecided about where to go on that Saturday night in February, but still being summer, warm, and the party season, we decided to give Lygon street another shot despite our last disappointing attempt. I mean, it was our old food-stomping ground. Surely we wouldn’t have another bad experience, would we?

???

We decided very quickly to go to Café Trevi. In fact, Hubbie decided it for all of us with the free pizza being handed out at the front of the establishment, tempting him in. If this were the old Trevi, I wouldn’t have bothered. We have had bad experiences there with food in the past, which is why we hadn’t gone there in years. But I could see that there were new owners, and it was newly renovated, and along with needing to get food into baby girl and myself, I just went along with it.

Free food tempting foodies in? Clever.

Hubbie asked for a table for us all, outside, while I asked the real question: was there a baby change facility in their premises? The girl holding the pan of pizza nodded yes, but I vaguely didn’t trust her, not knowing if she was just nodding above the noise, or just used to saying ‘yes’ all the time. So I turned to the door man, a friendly-looking man with an accent. I asked him pointedly if they had a baby change facility. He answered yes.

Let’s just store that in the memory bank for later.

Content with TWO YES’S, we moved to a table outside.

Hubbie and I got some drinks, a white for me, beer for him

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while we struggled to keep a hungry and under-slept baby girl happy. Fortunately for us, our entrée of arancini and her main of a chicken and chip pizza, arrived very quickly.

Arancini classici – rice ball made with cheese, peas and quality mince served with bologna sauce.

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Chicken and chips pizza – mozzarella, fried chips, chicken

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The arancini starter was not bad, I think it was a tad dry but the sauce on the side saved it. The chicken and chips pizza was moorish, an interesting combination and one that I think was great. We all enjoyed eating that one.

After a while, we received our mains:

Hubbie’s Eye Fillet Steak with potatoes

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And my linguine ai frutti di mare – spaghetti pomodori and fresh seafood, chilli

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My pasta was ok. I was initially worried it may have a strong chilli taste, thinking baby girl might want to taste-test, but I soon found out I had nothing to worry about – no strong discerning chilli taste here. Which actually was a bit disappointing. I wanted some flavour, and this was actually quite plain as far as seafood pastas go. I enjoyed the prawns and the one scallop on my plate, but the mussels were tough.

Hubbie’s experience left little to be desired. Firstly, he had an item off of the specials, so it wasn’t a usual menu item. He didn’t like the smell or taste of it, saying it smelt fishy and just didn’t taste right. It was turning him off, so he spoke to the door man who said he would take it to the kitchen and ask the chef. It was returned to him, with the explanation  “that’s the taste.” He was given the option of having another cooked for him, but hubbie didn’t bother. I mean, if that’s the ‘taste,’ won’t every other one taste and smell the same?

Hubbie butchered the steak, trying to find any reasonable meat to eat, leaving most of it in tatters on his plate. We’ll get back to that story soon.

I wanted to change baby girl, now being at the tail end of our dining experience at Trevi. We weren’t overly rapt, especially Hubbie, but I wanted to end the night on a good note by getting dessert or ice cream somewhere else before we headed home. So of course, I wanted her fresh, and I wanted to change her. I went over with her to the doorman who had been lovely all night, and very friendly with baby girl, and asked him where the change facilities were. He mumbled something about something not being there, but pointed to upstairs. So we walked up the stairs, change bag in one hand, holding baby girl’s hand in the other. I entered another seating area, probably reserved for private parties, that was empty. Here were the toilets: men’s and women’s. I entered the women’s, and did a double take. I went in, and then out. Looked around. Back in. Looked in toilet cubicles. Even sussed out the back of the toilet door entrance. I could see no change table or pull down table anywhere.

I walked out of the women’s toilet with baby girl, and stared at the men’s toilets. Surely they wouldn’t have the only change table in the men’s toilets, would they? I seriously contemplated going in there, but luckily I didn’t as a man came up minutes later to use the loo. I looked around the room racking my brain. It didn’t make sense. I was told at the beginning by two separate people who worked there that they had a baby change facility!
I walked back down with baby girl. Bag in one hand, holding her hand in the other. I saw the door man walk past near the foot of the stairs. “Excuse me,” I asked. “I can’t see a baby change table anywhere.”

He proceeded to tell me, very apologetically, like a dog with his tail between his legs and his head lowered after the owner’s have come home to find their laundry trashed all over the floor, that there was no change table. They didn’t have one.

I sighed, and nodded. I didn’t say a word. In my head I screamed ‘but you told me there was one! Both of you!’ Although he had been lovely to us all night, and to baby girl, he had deliberately lied. I went to the table and told Hubbie we were getting out of there. As Hubbie was paying and I was standing outside the café with baby girl, I saw a zomato sign stuck beside the front entrance. ‘Review us on Zomato,’ it read.

Oh I will, I thought.

Food: 3/10. Points obviously taken away for Hubbie’s steak, my bland pasta, and the uninspired arancini.

Coffee: N/A, and now, never.

Ambience: It was chilled at the beginning, and surprisingly when we were there it wasn’t too busy, but having said that it was 7-8pm on Lygon street on a hot summers night, meaning everywhere it was fairly bustling. We just wished more of the experience had been up to scratch to match that vibe.

Staff: They were friendly, especially the door man. But he, and the girl holding the pan for free tasting of pizzas, LIED.

People: Near us were an older couple at the beginning, then as we were finishing up a larger group sat near us, and a couple about our age, 30s, arrived with their motorcycle helmets. It was a quiet night for them, but it was gearing up a notch as we paid and left.

Price: I think the total was about $120-$130 – that consisted of several alcoholic drinks, an entrée, and three mains. However upon paying, Hubbie’s steak, or a portion of the price, came off the total, so it ended up being more like just over $100. They had seen his butchered steak, what was left of it anyway, and the chef had said to him at the register, “we could have given you another one!” Hubbie responded as he had to me – “but wouldn’t it have tasted the same?”

Advice: My personal advice would be to not go here. I was disappointed that Hubbie’s steak wasn’t to scratch, sure… but the fact that I was lied to about the baby change table? That left me really sour. And I saved him some verbal abuse due to it too. I chose to walk off. We didn’t end up going anywhere for dessert after, because I couldn’t change baby girl. We just went home. His lie had shortened our night out, and we don’t get many of those. Not happy.

In a nutshell: Feeling pretty damn shitty about Lygon street now. Both Hubbie and I were in agreeance over the fact that Lygon street, ain’t what it used to be. I think the good old-fashioned Italian fare and sincere service has gone out the window. Serve as many as you can with the cheapest quality cuts. Just get them in – then get them out. Don’t worry about change tables. Yeah we’ve got them. Oh no, that’s right we don’t. Sorry.

Too late. We won’t be coming back. I don’t take kindly to lying. Copperwood insulted us with ‘we are not a kindergarten.’ Buzz. Wrong answer. Parents read that, they said ‘we are not a kindergarten.’ What century are we in? And now, for Trevi to say they had one, but lie about it just so we could sit down and fork out over $100 for sub-standard food? That money needs to be worked for, it doesn’t fall off our money tree at home!

If we ever get over this slight (and we still haven’t) and we decide to head out Carlton-way again, I think we will definitely be avoiding Lygon street, and opting for the parallel and intersecting side streets instead…

R.I.P. Lygon street. Trevi and many of its neighbours aren’t doing you any favours in upholding the Italian-food tradition in your parts.

 

Update!

Ha, well what do you know. Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies… and this isn’t one, they are Permanently Closed. Or so Google tells me as I try to place my zomato spoonback for this post. So there you go peeps, KARMA.

That tells me to quickly update my blog posts from the start of this year (in case they have closed), but from memory I don’t think we ate anywhere where their noses grow long, so…

But I should update them. Because you know. Posting about last summer, when it’s almost new summer? Uh uh.

This should be more Common

The Common
26 Commercial Place Eltham

We were looking for a place to eat in the Eltham/Greensborough region one Saturday night, and the picture of the restaurant’s interior on their web site looked bustling. In addition, the menu looked interesting and Indian-inspired, and so the easy choice was made to go to The Common.

When I called there was jazz music blasting through the phone, making it difficult to hear the woman I was speaking to. Was this just background noise, or a band? I asked her if it was too late to make a reservation for oh, an hour’s time. We were wanting to come at 7pm, and she sounded unsure, like the booking was pushing it. She spoke to someone on her end for a moment, and then came back to me saying “can you come 6:30 to 6:45?” Sure thing, we would rush to get out. This sounded good. I could understand why they may not want us arriving at a time when other diners were also arriving, as it may cause kitchen chaos as we then all ordered at the exact same time.

We walked in at 6:50… to an almost empty restaurant.

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It was so weird, I had to question the music I had heard earlier. Turns out, their website says they have live jazz music leading up to 6pm on Saturdays, which would have been great for us, but bad that we were now past that timeslot, and I was slightly concerned that the lack of atmosphere would make any cry for attention from baby girl that much more noticeable.

There was only one other couple there and two individual ladies sitting on their own. It was pretty quiet for Eltham on a Saturday. But then again, we weren’t locals.

It slowly filled up during our time there. A group, a duo of friends, some older groups arrived too. It was more of a reserved dining experience, for those with elegant tastes and quiet voices, even though there was ample amount of high chairs in one corner waiting to be used. It was an earthy-looking restaurant, on the corner looking towards the shops behind Main Road, including the Safeway there. Parking had been a breeze, since there was undercover parking for all the communal shops on that strip, so that was an added bonus. There was a lounge in the middle of the restaurant which gave it a more laid-back feel, encouraging locals and casual diners to sit and sip on their coffee while they flipped through some newspapers. And being the festive season, the place was decked out in Merry cheer and little Christmas trees. I loved it.

From the onset, the staff were very professional and on the ball. Our waitress immediately informed us that their oven was out of order, which meant there were a few dishes on the menu that were unavailable. Fortunately they weren’t any that we would have gone for, so that was great. (Thank God it was the oven and not the stove huh?) We ordered our drinks of wine and beer

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and then the mains of:

My Chilli Prawns – Fresh prawns marinated in a chilli tomato sauce with a trio of capsicums and served with orange infused rice

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Hubbie’s Porterhouse Steak – Char-grilled porterhouse served with roasted baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, rosemary potatoes and a red wine jus

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While Baby girl got the Popcorn Chicken – crispy chicken pieces with aioli and lemon, with the Rosemary Potatoes on the side with Dijon remoulade (kind of for all to share).

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The presentation was sensational. Very visually pleasing. I love black servingware, and these colourful flavours were just bursting out at us. I especially loved the black slate that baby girl’s food was served on, it was very modern.

Hubbie had made a point out of checking if the steak he ordered was definitely going to be char-grilled, telling our waitress that he had had ‘fake’ char-grill before. God help me. He is obsessed with this char-grilled thing. He enjoyed his meal, but again, didn’t believe that his Porterhouse was char-grilled. What am I going to do with this man?

I loved my dish. There were many many prawns, which was such a fresh change from prawn dishes that give you like 3, or 4 prawns, if you’re lucky. Everything was saucy and flavoursome, however there was no real hint of chilli. Maybe the slightest warmth, but nothing that I would personally call spicy.

In terms of kids meals, these guys have won on the presentation front by a long shot. So often when I order kids meals out, we get such a sad and boring looking dish, that I feel bad encouraging baby girl to eat it as I am so uninspired myself. Even though the presentation was simple, it was smart, using colour to wow the diner even more. I was very impressed. And the popcorn chicken and the side of potatoes, not only looked good on the plate, but they all tasted good. Baby girl interchanged between the two happily before going walkabout. It was refreshing to see a variation on the standard chicken meal you find so often on offer for the kiddies.

Soon after this, I had to do a nappy change for baby girl, and thank God they had a change table. It was a fold out compacted next to the sinks in the women’s bathroom, but it was light and easily manoeuvred, and I was able to do my change on baby girl with no problems. It would have been a tight squeeze had someone come into the bathroom while I was doing this, since there are only two cubicles and I was right in front of the basin area, but fortunately this did not happen. The bathroom was modern and new, another plus.

I herded baby girl back into the dining area and we decided to share some dessert, while Hubbie opted for a short black. I decided against caffeine, only because I’d already had two that day. I wonder now why I didn’t just go a third, really, but now knowing how Hubbie’s experience was, maybe it’s better I didn’t.

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We all shared the Deconstructed Cheesecake. With a pistachio biscuit crumb foundation, topped with a light white chocolate mousse and served with a mixed berry coulis, this thing really did look divine. The biscuit was crunchy with great texture, and the cheese part was just that, definitely more cheesecake then chocolate mousse, but still, amazing. There were no problems in finishing that dish between the three of us.

Hubbie’s coffee wasn’t as impressive. The crema looked alright, however it was a very short black, short even for the short cup it was in. And then when he tasted it… he didn’t like it at all. I’ve been trying to ascertain this ‘bad flavour’ he said, so as to avoid writing ‘bad flavour’ in my review, but he couldn’t put his finger on it, other than to say it had a bad taste. Not burnt, bad. Being the end of our meal, it was slightly underwhelming to hear.

It had been an odd night, with some really exciting finds and then some average ones. We were still puzzled by the need for us to be there before 7pm, and arriving to an almost empty restaurant. We rushed so much, for that. The only thing I can think of, which seems the most likely, is that there was only one chef in the kitchen, and perhaps they had to think of that when seating people down and placing orders. There were two other people ‘on the floor’ and towards the end of the night another man was there too, so there wasn’t a huge amount of wait staff. They were all lovely though and it was a great night… just with a dose of puzzlement, that’s all.

Food: 8-8.5/10. I waver here because my prawns were not chilli, and Hubbie’s steak wasn’t char-grilled, OR SO HE SAYS. Everything else was great, and the menu is one to be explored further.

Coffee: 4/10. I have to go off of Hubbie’s rating in lack of my own caffeine beverage there, and he just didn’t like the taste.

Ambience: Quiet, post 6pm. Relaxed, but in a refined manner. I think it’s a different story when the music is on, that’s what it sounded like anyway. Would have loved a bit more pizazz while we were there (which can’t be helped by them I know), it was just really-toned down.

People: Friends and older folk catching up. I didn’t see any other kids that night, but there were high chairs.

Staff: They were really good and very friendly. Informative and professional.

Price: It was about $130 all up – that consisted of 3 and a half mains, 3-4 alcoholic drinks, dessert and coffee. Some dishes were on the ‘up’ side, but having said that the quality and presentation of the food was up to scratch.

Advice: I don’t know whether to say ‘reserve ahead’ or ‘just rock up’ here. They seemed quite definite on the phone about what time of night we were arriving, whereas while there I saw a few people come in with no reservation. Do what you feel is right for your crew.

In a nutshell: Despite some mixed feelings about various components of the night, it was favourably skewed to the positive overall, and I was impressed with the surroundings and elegant ambience of the restaurant. The menu is worth perusing and exploring, and God damn it I’ll even order a coffee next time to see what Hubbie was going on about. Seeing as this is an area we may often frequent in the future, I think we will definitely be coming back to this place, more Commonly.

The Common Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bill in the hand, Bird in the Sand

Birdie Num Nums
745 Nicholson Street Carlton North

The annual KK Christmas catch-up, originally girly but now inundated with littlies, was the reason for our get together at this Nicholson Street eatery one cool yet sunny Saturday morning.

Knowing it was in Carlton North, and the street it was on, parking was always going to be an issue. Fortunately, there were loads of car spaces (not so much available ones) in the block behind Birdie Num Nums, so after a bit of concerted driving we found ourselves a 2-hour park.

It’s a funky, airy café upon entry. High ceilings, quite spacious, with a kind of minimalist industrial feel. And some birdcages hanging from the ceilings thrown in too, of course. I wasn’t too concerned with the interior – the courtyard was what I was finding myself terrified about, and it had even been mentioned on a sign at the front of the café, heightening my sense of trepidation even more.

We walked through the indoor section, past the kitchen and toilets, to the tables surrounding the –

DUM DA DUM DUM.

Sandpit.

This bloody sandpit had been the primary motivator in our decision for going there. There were five of us girls, and between us, 4 kiddies. KK wasn’t what it used to be anymore: there was no more gossip about who did what and when by then; we didn’t all sit hunched over the table in deep discussion and D&Ms about life and our reason’s for being on this earth; and we didn’t stay seated at the table for the full duration with only a toilet break to freshen and reapply some gloss.

No. Now our banter about random events and everyday life was often interrupted with “baby girl! Stop that! – What were you saying about that colleague?” The topic of kids heavily dominated our conversation, even those of us who had none spoke of their nieces/nephews/kids in the fam and just about everything relating to kids possible. “How do you get your girl to brush her teeth?” “Have you heard him saying fuck? He says fuck now.” “Baby girl blow a kiss – good girl!” And it was impossible to stay seated for more than 15 minutes at a time, as we got up to clean our kids/assist them/stop them crying/starting a fighting/losing their shit at a toy, even those without kids were often reeled in and made to follow them around (ahem, my daughter). There was no rest for ANYBODY.

But, it was as we had always dreamed. This was the stuff we had spoken about in high school – catching up, and our kids playing together. It was awesome that it was now reality.

So, naturally, having so many kiddies to reign in, one of the girls mentioned this sandpit place she had been to. Their website even says the sandpit is great to keep the kids amused while the parents can sit back and have a break.

You know, that’s fine and all… it just occurred to me days before the actual KK catch-up: ‘How do you consider cleaning sand off of kids after-the-fact, a break?’

Cleaning sand? Is this most annoying and irritating of cleaning tasks, off of kids out of all things, considered a break? Are you kidding me? The mere thought of getting rid of all that crap, even if you had the most blissful uninterrupted two hours of your life while your child ground down sand into every crevice of their body, rubbing it deep into their hair and rolling around in it like a pig in mud, that my friends would surely diminish any happiness I had previously felt. No, knowing that after your amazing coffee-time, you had to scrub and clean and rinse, and still find sand in your child days and many baths later, no, there could be NO happiness there.

This was the dread I was feeling as we ventured into the outdoor area.

Back to Birdie’s. There were quite a few outdoor tables and options in the large yard, some with umbrellas, and this was good since we had failed to remember to reserve a table for our large lot. Fortunately we sat down straight away, within easy access right next to the sandpit (yay).

Soon we ordered, and the kids meals arrived first.

Baby girl got the Pikelets, maple syrup (on the side) & fruit

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The meal didn’t look spectacular, but she did love the pikelets, in particular the seasonal watermelon that was present, so kudos for that. Soon after the rest of us received our meals, and we fit it in in amongst the ripped paper and cards and new-found goodies from our Christmas exchange, to the background sound of baby girl’s squeals of delight at the sight of MORE food arriving for us.

I ordered the Portobello Caps – baked Portobello mushrooms, wilted spinach, poached eggs, cheeses and a drizzle of truffle oil, served on sourdough toast

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With a cappuccino.

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Lucky I actually took a photo of the menu, because I was sure I was getting many mushrooms, rather than the singular large one that was on my plate. Despite the menu saying Portobello mushrooms, I didn’t mind, I realise it may have been a seasonal thing where they didn’t have a particular menu item available. All in all it was a good meal, the eggs were poached well with a lovely runny yolk, but nothing was really wow. I guess with the garlic flavour atop the mushroom, that was strong in itself and the rest of the meal was fairly bland in flavour to compensate. I still ate it all as I was really hungry, but it just wasn’t spectacular.

To top it off, I had mistakenly ordered my cappuccino at the same time – my bad. It was just easier doing it all at once rather than later. However when I did sip my coffee, a tad after receiving it, it was unusually lukewarm, which makes me think it wasn’t hot at all on arrival. This was a bit disappointing because with the (lack of) speed at which I drink coffee with baby girl besides me, it ends up being quite cool. This day, my cappuccino was had cold. Damn.

Nothing was that ordinary though that a bad time was had, and again, we had the best company to compensate for any shortcomings brought on by food, drink or otherwise. The service was great and we had one lovely lady take a photo of the group of us – lovely until she denied us to pay separately up at the counter when we were paying our bill. We had first been told by another waitress that they usually don’t split bills on the weekends, but that it may be possible if they weren’t busy. Considering the entire courtyard area had emptied out in the last 20 minutes prior to our departure, bar one other group, we thought we could definitely get by with a split bill. However when the photo-taking lady told one of us she couldn’t put our bills through individually, we then had to stand there at the front counter, with prams and bags and kids milling around, and take up one end of an empty table as we tried to work out what we owed, in doing so heavily inhabiting the front part of the shop for the next 5 minutes. Lady, I realise it’s against policy to split bills on weekends. But 1) you weren’t busy, 2) instead of getting us out quicker we turned the interior into a fiasco as we tried to work out what we each had to pay, and 3) we left with bad feelings. Tsk tsk tsk. I don’t think it’s worth it from an owner’s perspective, don’t you?

However, I did leave feeling rather accomplished. Right after our arrival there, baby girl had touched a toy near the sandpit, and had immediately come to me with hand outstretched – she didn’t like the sand on her hands. Bless. Thank you Lord. She is most definitely my daughter. She didn’t go into the sandpit the entire time, nor did she play with overly sandy toys (tee hee hee).

Food: 6.5/10. Okay, but I expected more.

Coffee: 6.5/10. It wasn’t delivered hot, and it wasn’t my preferred coffee bean flavour.

Ambience: It was very cas in the courtyard, what with the colourful chairs and sandpit and toys occupying all spaces.

People: Lots and lots of families out back. Inside they seemed quieter, and there were much fewer kids. The courtyard is THE family hang out.

Staff: They were lovely, and we were happy right up until bill time…

Price: My orders tallied up to just under $30, which I think is spot on for this kind of eatery in Carlton North.

Advice: You might need to search for parking behind the café. Give yourself extra time to do this especially on weekends. Bring money too, because like one friend of mine, you’ll be shitty when you realise you can’t pay by card in your denied split bill. The courtyard is the place to go for families and kid playdates, but as my friend well acquainted with sandpits says – “the less layers the better!” Just beware.

In a nutshell: If you don’t mind your child getting covered in filth as you sip your lukewarm coffee, then this is the place for you. I didn’t mind it, and seeing as baby girl didn’t bathe herself in the grainy stuff, I feel okay about going back. However there were a few downers, and so with that in mind it may take me a while to forget these Birdies – I mean boo boos – and consciously decide to venture back.

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Birdie Num Nums Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato